TDH: 5/23/11

Conflicting council views of social service process?

The Salvation Army: one of several orgs receiving no funding under proposed revisions
The Salvation Army: one of several orgs receiving no funding under proposed revisions (Photo via Google Street View)

There's been lots of talk about the city's long-simmering realignment of contracts for social service providers. Staff's preliminary recommendations, presented at City Council's last meeting, should be winding their way back to the dais sometime in the near future – the question is when.

City Council's Public Health and Human Services committee picks the issue up this Wednesday, and it's expected any recommendation or action they take will determine when staff's controversial recommendations come back to council.

As a refresher, let's revisit reactions from two council members on the PHHS committee – chair Randi Shade and Laura Morrison – when the recos were presented at council's May 12 meeting,

“I found this quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I want to use right now because I think it's important for us to keep that in mind as we move forward,” Shade said. “'In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.' And so we are not doing nothing. I don't think we're yet at the right thing, and we're going to be working really hard to make sure that we don't do the wrong thing. That's really the goal.”

Shade said that some of the discord arising around the proposals was because the city was seeing the proverbial sausage being made. “I also want to remind the public who's watching and certainly all the organizations who are concerned that we're not, you know, a foundation that gets to sit in a room and have a really great retreat and use dots and decide what we want to prioritize and change our philosophy for funding and then come up with a great plan for execution. We aren't that way, because we're a public entity. We have to have this discussion, open. So you're hearing it as we're hearing it, and I don't know that people really realize that.”

While Shade characterized the changes as an initial proposal subject to further revision (and hence, not as great a cause for alarm), Morrison took a more pointed tack, criticizing a lack of input in the process. Saying “what we have from the staff is an output of … computations and formulas,” Morrison argued that “What was missing from that was any identification of types of services, because there's a lot of services that can fit into transition out of poverty or safety net or problem prevention. So the concern that I have, or where I think we need the most amount of work now is to look at a spread of the types of services that we have in the top scoring.”

Whatever happens this Wednesday, one thing's certain: Staff's original proposal to bring their recommendations forward for action this Thursday isn't in the cards.

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